Medicare Advantage, telehealth expansion allies to helm key House panels

The new leaders of the influential House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee have previously been fierce advocates for extending telehealth services as well as preserving Medicare Advantage (MA).

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, was selected Tuesday as the head of Energy and Commerce. Rep. Jason Smith, Missouri, will helm the House Ways and Means Committee. Both panels have major jurisdiction over healthcare issues in Congress.

It remains unclear what the exact priorities for both lawmakers will be in the new congressional session. 

McMorris Rodgers has served as the ranking member of Energy and Commerce in the last Congress and has been critical of the Biden administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has called for information and records from the National Institutes of Health on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will likely be the source of hearings across multiple committees in the coming years.

She is also likely to be a sharp critic of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) policies on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

McMorris Rodgers slammed CMS for approving a waiver by Washington state to enable undocumented immigrants to get subsidized coverage. Rodgers said in a statement last month that the waiver granted by CMS to Washington was a “misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Both McMorris Rodgers and Smith are aligned on a key issue of how to keep around telehealth flexibilities. Smith told Axios that a big focus of his chairmanship will be on extending telehealth and improving access to healthcare in rural areas. 

McMorris Rodgers has also been a big proponent of the expansion of telehealth flexibilities created at the onset of the pandemic. 

Both lawmakers will likely play a pivotal role in the future of telehealth. At the start of the pandemic, CMS expanded the flexibility for providers to get Medicare reimbursement for telehealth. 

Congress passed legislation at the tail end of 2022 that extends those benefits through 2024. It may be up to Congress again to pass another extension or to decide which flexibilities should become permanent. 

Both Republicans are likely to continue their record as staunch advocates of MA, the popular program that has received intense scrutiny surrounding its marketing and risk adjustment practices